How to work with Geldings: Training Horses

In this article, we’ll follow Al as he recounts his recent experiences purchasing two horses and training them. The first horse is an 11-year-old registered quarter horse, while the second horse is a 6-year-old grey gelding. Al’s goal is to show readers that every horse is unique, and as such, needs different methods of training.

The Art of Training Horses: One Trainer's Journey with Two Unique Geldings

Horse 1: The Gentle Kid Horse

The 11-year-old quarter horse was advertised to Al as a gentle kid horse that would need an experienced young rider who already knows how to ride. When Al first saw the horse, he was ridden without a bit and instead with his halter, indicating a lack of control. Despite this, Al could see that the horse was gentle and decided to purchase him.

Al realized that the horse had been previously ridden extensively, as indicated by his papers, but had no rein. When Al first tried to turn the horse, he would go where he wanted, for as long as he wanted. This was likely frustrating for kids who rode him and did not know how to train him. Al set out to teach the horse how to properly accept and respond to his reins.

It took a couple of hours for Al to get the horse used to his collection reins, but eventually, he was walking and trotting in a collected manner. Al worked with him for a couple of days, showing him proper cues, foot position, and speed. Although the horse had been ridden extensively, Al concluded that he was not a kid horse yet, as he did not have enough rein to steer and stop him when needed.

Horse 2: The Afraid Gelding

The second horse Al purchased was a 6-year-old grey gelding that was sold to him because his owner was afraid of him. When Al first tried to ride him, the horse threw his nose into the air and would turn very fast, ducking his head and turning in another direction. This behavior indicated that the horse had been hit in the past to force him to turn.

Al decided to install his collection reins on the horse, starting with a rubber rein to ease him into the transition. It took the horse a little longer than most horses to adjust, likely because he was used to a tie-down to control his head. However, the horse soon learned that lowering his chin would be more comfortable and cause him no discomfort.

After a while, the horse stopped swishing his tail and sweating excessively, indicating he was less nervous. Al worked with him for about an hour, stopping after each movement to show him he was pleased with his obedience.

Al believes the horse will make a good reining horse or a good dancing horse. On the second saddling, Al gave the horse time to gather his feet underneath him after indicating that he wanted him to stop.


Al’s experience training horses highlights the importance of understanding that every horse is different and requires different methods of training. What worked for one horse might not work for another. In Al’s experience, giving a gentle horse enough rein to steer and stop is critical, while working with a fearful horse requires patience and gentleness. By adapting to each horse’s unique personality, Al has been able to successfully train them to be the best they can be.


“Training Horses: Understanding Horse Personalities,” The Horse, June 2015,

“Training the Fearful Horse,” Equus Magazine, September 2016,


Original Article:

This week I purchased two gray geldings, one is 11 years old and the other is 6. Both horses were represented to me as gentle kid horses except the 11 year old would need an experienced young kid that knew how to ride already.

Let me take the 11 year old first. He is a registered quarter horse and is very gentle. When I went to see him a young man got on his back and walked, trotted and loped him. I could tell that he had no rein mostly because they didn’t have a bit and were riding him with his halter but I had seen enough to know that I wanted to buy the horse. I noticed on his papers that this horse had several previous owners.

It was no fun getting on this type of horse that did not have any rein. He went where he wanted to, when he wanted to, and for as long as he wanted to. I’m sure this got very old for the kids not knowing what to do in order to get him to turn when they wanted him to turn. But the horse was gentle and he would let kids on him.

I’m sure they would have enjoyed it a lot more if the horse would have had some kind of rein as they did not have the ability to train the horse. They were at the mercy of whatever the horse wanted to do.

When I first saddled the horse he would start to walk away as I was trying to get on. Once on him I tried to turn him in the direction that I wanted him to go but he didn’t know what I was trying to do. I almost had to guide him towards the fence in order for him to stop so then I knew exactly what I had to do.

First, I had to adjust him to my collection reins and get him to accept them. This took a couple of hours then I lounged him for a little while. The next day I got him to stretch a little bit so that he would not move as I got on him. I often wonder what he was going to do when he was asked to do something that he did not want to do, would he blow up on me? Will he rear up? Run off? Start bucking? I would soon find out just exactly how gentle he really was.

I started to regulate his walk by forcing him into the direction I wanted him to go by pulling the reins in that direction. Needless to say he tried to fight the turn. But I insisted that he go in that direction and he balked but went ahead and did it. Within a couple of hours or less he was walking and trotting in a collected manner.

I worked this day strictly on showing him my technique with my cues, foot position and the speed that I wanted him to go. All in all it was a good day and we made great progress in the first two days of his training horses. In my opinion this horse is a good horse that has been ridden extensively over the years and has built up trust in man–but no kid horse yet. A good kid horse in my opinion is a horse that is gentle, well behaved and with enough rein to steer and stop him when needed.

Now going to the second horse, he is a six year old great gelding that was sold to me because the owner was afraid of him. On his first day of his training I found him calm enough to saddle him and I put the bit that he was used to on him. I mounted and started to walk off and immediately he threw his nose into the air so that he would be in control trying to protect himself against any heavy tugging.

When I would turn him he would turn really fast ducking his head and turning in another direction. This is an indication to me that he was hit in order to turn him. In other words the rider would turn the rein to the left and immediately hit him on the neck forcing him to duck his head and turn faster. His tail swishing indicated to me that he was very nervous and his excessive sweating is another indication on how he had been trained.

After working with the horse I installed my collection reins of course starting with the rubber rein, which he tugged at for quite awhile. He soon learned that all he had to do was lower his chin and he would be a lot more comfortable. By doing this it would cause no discomfort to him. It took him a little longer than most horses because he had not been used to riding this way. I’m sure the previous owners use a tie down to get his head down in order to have more control.

Of course I start all my horses with a D-ring snaffle so he was in no discomfort from his mouth and yielded to the rubber reins very quickly. I then mounted him and moved him slowly and showed him that he did not need to turn so fast. I also showed him that I was not going to hurt him and after each movement I would stop and show him how pleased I was with his obedience. I noticed that his tail stopped swishing and he was sweating a lot less. I worked for about an hour and quit on a good note. I think he will make a good reining horse or perhaps a good dancing horse.

On his second saddling I allowed him time to gather his feet underneath him after making an indication that I wanted him to stop. After this session I will give him a day off to let him run and play and get comfortable for his lessons ahead.
Now folks, this is what I mean when I say to you that each horse is different.

What works on one horse may not work on other horses and that’s why I need to see the horse and the rider together to see what areas each one needs help in.
A friend of mine came by with his horse and wanted a lesson. He had purchased this horse a couple of months before and had him with a trainer.

The trainer told him that he needed a couple more months with the horse before he would be ready for the owner to ride him. My friend brought his horse to me mainly to get a second opinion. Well the first thing I did of course was to get the horse adapted to the rubber reins and get him in a collected state.

This took less than an hour and the horse was very cooperative moving around the round pen so I asked the owner to get on the horse and ride him. I showed him my technique that I use on feet and hand position and how to properly adjust the saddle.

Within two hours both the student and the horse were doing great. He called me today and told me that he had taken his wife to a team penning and he took his horse with him and to everyone’s surprise that knew him and his horse that he had such control. He said to me that they wanted to buy the collection reins from him. He said to them “buy your own collection reins” these are mine. Just to hear how proud he was that he was communicating with his horse for the first time made me feel great.

This type of situation is what is so gratifying to me and makes my life work so enjoyable. This is a big reason why I want to pass on my experience. Give me a good gentle horse and a student with an open mind and I can show you a faster and easier way to ride your horse. So until next month–Be Safe!
Your Friend,